Childhood wounds are not just the wounds we get from falling off of the monkey bars as kids on the playground. They are the wounds and painful experiences that have been imprinted in us from our youth. These are our first memories of painful experiences that when left unhealed — leave lasting negative effects well into adulthood.
These wounds represent moments where we felt abandoned, betrayed, humiliated, and hurt that have been buried deep within our bodies and subconscious. As children, we don’t try to make sense of these experiences like we would as adults — picking them apart. Or perhaps, it might be too terrifying and shameful to acknowledge them. But we don’t yet have the tools or life experiences just yet to understand what has happened to us.
In an unhealed state, we carry our childhood wounds with us every day. These wounds manifest in a myriad of ways including in the way we speak, the way we react, our relationship dynamics, and in our decision making. We even give off cues in our body language revealing a level of protectiveness or defensiveness, closing off when we feel threatened in some way. We might even be too open and vulnerable without realizing it.
Oftentimes, as it is the case with pain— we want to avoid it. Even more, we find it easier to put a band-aid on a wound and hope it goes away. Yet we’re triggered when we find ourselves engaging in the same themes that hurt us again and again. We fall into dangerous situations or complicated relationships that result in the same outcomes over and over. Disappointment, abandonment, pain, betrayal… regret. We cast the same roles to the same actors and find ourselves expecting different results, but we’ve neglected to re-write the play.
Why does this happen? Why does it seem that we are enslaved to these circumstances? If we go out of our way to avoid feeling the pain of rejection, betrayal or abandonment — then why are we the ones who still hurt in the end? Most of all, why can’t we just ignore our childhood wounds and move on our with our lives?
Starting in our youth, we create narratives for ourselves — the happy and the sad moments intertwine and write our stories. This story shapes our perception of the world — especially whether or not we feel safe and trusting. As children, we are still learning to navigate this big world — so, forgiveness isn’t always a lesson that is learned too well in youth. We are told to get right back up after a fall, brush off the dirt and that “we will be okay”. Sometimes, it’s accompanied with a warm embrace and for others maybe, a less than nurturing response.
When initial wounds go unresolved, they spread like cracks in glass or weeds in a garden. No matter what you do or how hard you try to ignore it, the crack keeps spreading and the weeds just keep coming back. We create new narratives from the same seed that hurt us as children. Before we know it, this buds off more of the same — until we realize that we have cultivated unhealthy experiences that seem to follow us everywhere.
Childhood wounds can be terrifying to confront. They can stir up old emotions and experiences that can be difficult to handle, especially if you already feel vulnerable. So, be kind to yourself and don’t push yourself to confront too much. Make sure that you have considered your level of emotional readiness to address these aspects of yourself.
An important part of my own healing process consisted of sitting down with a pen and paper and retracing my steps back to the beginning. All the recent experiences that still felt raw and that were seared into my memory were written down. When was the first time I ever felt this type of pain? When had I first felt abandonment or betrayal? I linked everything on paper, developing a much deeper understanding of my own processes than I ever had before.
As hard as acknowledging painful childhood wounds are, the next step might be even harder for some. Forgiving yourself. Forgiving is part of letting go and a crucial aspect of healing. It doesn’t mean that you were responsible for the initial wound but for denying yourself to heal from it. We are not always in control of what happens to us — but what we do next is often left in our hands.
Taking responsibility of your healing process means owning up to your behaviors, not anyone else’s. It means ceasing to carry the burden of responsibility for someone else hurting you. The reason why childhood wounds are so difficult to confront is because we ingrain the concept within us that whatever has happened in the past is our fault and whatever will happen, will likely be our fault as well. Of course, this is a self full-fulling prophecy if we take on this burden because we are going to reject any wonderful opportunities that might come our way. So, we sabotage just in case — feeling as if we don’t deserve better.
The benefit of engaging in shadow work results in tremendous healing and transformation — and can be truly life changing. Healing your childhood wounds can cancel out any future lessons that might have been well on their way. You can re-write a new story for yourself, without having to hide your pain and play out these cycles continuously. There is no greater feeling than freedom and living authentically without being at the mercy of the chains of your past.